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Clock Running On Bills Remaining From 2020 Florida Legislative Session

A final batch of bills approved this year by the Legislature, many scheduled to become law Oct. 1, continue to await a call from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The 26 remaining measures, ranging from a revamp of the state’s specialty license-plate system to putting additional teeth into the fight against shark finning and trying to curb e-cigarette use by teens, have been sitting in the House and Senate since the legislative session ended on March 19.

“The Senate is coordinating with the governor’s office to send the bills over as the governor is ready to receive them, understanding that the first priority at this time is the governor’s role in leading our state’s response to the ongoing pandemic,” Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said Monday.

The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

DeSantis has signed 177 bills into law from the session, including the $92.2 billion budget (HB 5001), and vetoed three measures. Most of the bills, including the budget, went into effect with the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

More than 3,500 bills, memorials and resolutions were filed for the session, which began in January.

Once the remaining bills are formally moved to the governor’s office, DeSantis will have 15 days to act on each proposal.

The highest profile of the remaining measures, the e-cigarette legislation (SB 810), would go into effect Jan. 1.

The proposal would identify e-cigarettes and vaping products as “tobacco products.” It would raise the age to purchase any tobacco products --- including tobacco cigarettes, dip and chew, as well as e-cigarettes --- from 18 to 21.

The changes, promoted as addressing what health officials called a youth vaping “epidemic,” were a priority of Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

The age hike would bring Florida in line with a federal law that went into effect in January, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has defined “electronic nicotine delivery systems” as tobacco products since 2016.

The Florida Smoke Free Association, in continuing to lobby against the measure, has argued the changes would add to the state’s revenue shortfall from the coronavirus pandemic and negatively impact an industry that employs more than 5,000 residents.

The shark finning proposal (SB 680), with an Oct. 1 start date, would expand on a 2017 law that increased penalties for people who remove fins from sharks and discard the rest of the sharks into the ocean.

The new bill would ban the import, export and sale of shark fins, which are considered a delicacy in parts of Asia.

The proposal didn’t fully ease concerns of the commercial fishing industry, though it would allow people with federal shark fishing permits and seafood dealers that harvest and possess shark products to continue engaging in import and export trade involving shark fins through Jan. 1, 2025.

The changes to the specialty license-plate program (HB 1135), also set to take effect Oct. 1, were sold as putting new guardrails around the process, while expanding the potential number of tags from the current 123 to 150.

The bill would allow new plates to get on the road if supporters can meet higher sales thresholds, while bumping some low sellers from the road. It would allow plates for the University of Alabama, the University of Georgia and Auburn University, giving fans a chance to showcase their support for the out-of-state schools.

The measure also would create a “super tag” template for nine black fraternities and sororities dubbed the “Divine 9” --- Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Iota Phi Theta.

A separate bill (HB 387) that also needs to be sent to DeSantis would set a standard $25 fee for most specialty license plates, with a $50 fee for the Alabama, Georgia and Auburn tags.

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The News Service of Florida
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